First of all, my apologies for posting so very late in the day. Tis the season to get sidetracked by various obligations and projects.
"Skeletons" was not only a pivotal episode for the series, but was also very different structurally from the 25 episodes that came before. While I support a series willingness to take risks with it's format, the final product isn't always as successful as the writer had hoped it to be. "Skeletons" did have some problems, however, overall, I enjoyed the episode and was very glad one issue was dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Although there is that other thing....
Because this is a Jamie Bamber site - and every previous L&O:UK discussion post began with an image of Jamie - I felt obliged to begin this post in the same way. Plus, Jamie looked really good in the episode. ;) But from here on out, to commemorate Ben Daniel's swan song and to, like the episode itself, do something a little different, the focus will be on James.
The episode opens rather abruptly with Ronnie, Matt and another man frantically searching for a missing boy. The boy, tragically, is found when his body exits a drain pipe mere feet from Matt. It's not long before a second boy is found murdered and we're led to believe Matt and Ronnie are on the hunt for a copycat killer, someone using the same M.O. as Andrew Dylan, sent to prison six years before for the murder of three boys. But they (and we) soon discover Andrew Dylan is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of, they weren't looking for a copycat and they've caught a serial killer, Marcus Wright.
Turns out 'Skeletons' isn't about dead bodies. It's what James may be hiding in his closet. The focus of the story suddenly shifts from Marcus (who I guess we'll assume went to prison for life) to James and whether or not he buried evidence, a witness statement, several years before. Though I was confidant James didn't intentionally do anything wrong - legally or ethically - Andrew Dylan raised an interesting point when he stated James had decided the killer had to be white. Could James have failed to investigate the case fully once he found someone who fit the profile he developed?
Beyond Matt's anger that his partner and, by extension, the department is being accused of dropping the ball (at best) and concealing evidence (at worst), there seemed to be another layer of hostility in Matt's demeanor. Wandering into lemurling's territory, I checked some dates. James questioned Matt's conduct and professionalism, as well as humiliated him, on the stand in 'Anonymous' on March 29. Events in 'Skeletons' took place from mid-April to mid-May. That Matt is more than a little galled when James tries to reconcile what might have happened by declaring, "We all make mistakes", is understandable.
Payback could be a bitch, but Matt seems really pained to have to arrest James. This is also where I start having some issues with The Fall of James. Maybe when prosecutors are suspected of wrongdoing in the U.K., justice runs it's course at a very fast pace. But, in the U.S., it would be months, at best, before an arrest is made. We've even had people investigated for years before action is taken. And within days we have a trial. Really?
The case itself takes some other strange turns. While I understand George finding it necessary to bring in someone from the outside to prosecute the case, did he have to find such an asshole? And if he's going to be an asshole, couldn't he have been a brilliant asshole? Then again, this all happened on short notice, maybe Samuel Kane was the best George could do. :p (I was disappointed Tobias Menzies (Samuel) shared no scenes with Jamie. I was looking forward to an Ultimate Force reunion!)
I'm going to assume I wasn't the only one who, as soon as we met her, knew the former prosecutor who worked closely with James for a year had had an affair with him. Which meant that when he forced her to reveal the relationship on the stand, it didn't work as a twist. But, my bigger issue with the 'revelation', is James is seemingly put through the ringer because of The Woman Scorned. When, in reality, it makes more sense she didn't come forward, not because James was an ass and hurt her six years ago, because coming forward would have meant risking her own career (and freedom) since she was the one guilty of perverting the course of justice.
James is acquitted, but, deciding he is culpable in a miscarriage of justice that resulted in the deaths of three children, he resigns. Which might have carried more weight if not for some other mistakes he's made recently where deaths were involved. Although, I suppose with all the people that died recently who shouldn't have, I can rationalize it's been a rough year and he needs a break. Or I can just go with it as the best solution to writing Ben out of the series. I had feared there would be no closure for James and, at best, next season we'd get a throwaway line stating he quit and moved to Scotland to be closer to his son.
OK, now, I'm not a shipper, however....
It seems they're leaving us hanging on the James/Alesha front. Given he aksed her to steal files without considering how it could affect her and her career, nor did he seem to give it a second thought that she lied on the stand for him, it's probably best nothing happened. On the other hand, there have been hints all season as to there being the potential for something more between the two and we almost had it and I find that very frustrating.
For a man who has put his career first, to the detriment of his marriage, friendships and professional relationships, what does James do next? Most likely private practice. I find it hard to believe numerous firms wouldn't be anxious for James to join them and the door would be open for Ben/James to return as defense counsel down the road. It happened on Law & Order. But I really like the final shot of James, a man so confidant in his role as prosecutor, now a little bit adrift. Farewell, you magnificent bastard.